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Guilt Denied in Slaying of Boyfriend of Stepdaughter

Times Staff Writer

A Woodland Hills construction supervisor pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday to a charge that he shot and killed his stepdaughter’s boyfriend.

After the arraignment on a charge of second-degree murder, Peter Atanasov, 37, was released on $1,000 bail after defense and prosecuting attorneys agreed that he was not a threat to flee or a danger to society.

Dane Kimball, 18, was shot in the head and killed Tuesday night, reportedly after he ran from Atanasov’s home. His body was discovered by a jogger Wednesday morning, 75 yards from Atanasov’s house at the edge of the Woodland Hills Country Club, police said.

Atanasov told police he had chased away a burglar, but authorities said Kimball may have been inside the house to retrieve a jacket.

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Tells of ‘Bad Blood’

Kimball’s father, Robert Kimball, said that “bad blood” existed between his son and Atanasov and that Atanasov had threatened the younger Kimball previously.

Atanasov called police to his home Tuesday night and reported that he had just chased away a prowler after he and his wife arrived home and saw a flashlight beam inside. Police searched the area on the 4600 block of Canoga Avenue but did not find anyone.

Atanasov’s attorney, Mitchell W. Egers, said Atanasov did not know he had hit anyone Tuesday night when he ran outside and fired several shots in the direction of the fleeing man. Atanasov apparently was unaware that one bullet struck Kimball, Los Angeles Police Lt. William J. Gaida said.

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“He did not realize that somebody was shot until the next day when they found the body,” Egers said in an interview. “I think most homeowners will understand the situation that he found himself in.”

Al Albergate, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorneys office, said the case centers on two questions: Did Atanasov fire in self-defense and was Kimball fleeing the scene of a felony?

Calls Evidence ‘Clear’

On the self-defense question, “the evidence is clear” that Atanasov ran outside and shot Kimball, who was on country club property, Albergate said. “It’s pretty difficult to argue self-defense in that situation.”

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On the second point, “We believe the evidence will show that the victim entered the house of people he knew to retrieve his jacket, not to commit a felony crime,” Albergate said. At most, Kimball might have been trespassing, but he also might have had the permission of Atanasov’s 15-year-old stepdaughter to be in the house, he said.

But Egers said Atanasov had to make a split-second decision as his wife screamed and as the man fled the house. “He didn’t know what property the man might have or if he was armed,” Egers said.

Los Angeles police have said the youth might have been hiding in the bushes when Atanasov fired several shots from what they believe was a .38-caliber pistol.

“The investigation hasn’t shown that he knew who the intruder was at the time he fired,” said Detective Pat Conmay, who is investigating the killing.

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But Robert Kimball said his son, at 5 feet, 6 inches tall and with bright, curly red hair, normally would be quite recognizable. Kimball said he was outraged that Atanasov had been charged only with second-degree murder and released on $1,000 bail.

“I think it’s a farce,” he said. “My kid’s dead. Tomorrow, I’ve got to go to the mortuary and look at where he was shot in the head.”

The “bad blood” between his son and Atanasov surfaced about Easter, when the Atanasovs found young Kimball alone in the house with their daughter and told him to leave, Robert Kimball said.

The Bulgarian-born Atanasov, who had been in Van Nuys Jail since his arrest Wednesday afternoon, smiled and waved to his wife as he entered Van Nuys Municipal Court for his arraignment. Later, the couple declined to discuss the incident.

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“I’m happy to be free,” Atanasov said after posting bail. “Now, I want to go home and rest and see my wife and kids.”

A preliminary hearing to decide whether Atanasov should stand trial was set for July 31.

The second-degree charge was filed because of evidence that the suspect showed a “wanton disregard” for human life, Albergate said. A first-degree murder charge would have required evidence that the killing was premeditated and deliberate.

If found guilty, Atanasov could be sentenced to a term of 15 years to life in prison, Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Diamond said. Atanasov could receive two additional years in prison if he is found guilty of using a firearm, Diamond said.

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